The fate lady sings
"Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort am Rande des
Rheins zuhauf! Hoch und hell lodre die Glut, die den edlen
Leib des hehrsten Helden verzehrt. Sein Ross führet daher dass mit
mir dem Recken es folge: denn des Helden heiligste Ehre zu teilen,
verlangt mein eigener Leib.Vollbringt Brünnhildes Wunsch!"
Brünnhilde, in Götterdämmerung, III, 3, by Richard Wagner.
[ 1 ]
fate lady sings.
The opera is done.
The funding is over.
It had a good run.
More than a million
Went to one boss,
And many the more
Count it a loss.
fate lady sings.
The opera has failed.
Fight to save what?
The fates have prevailed.
Moribund it was
As moribund things
Implode on themselves
While the fate lady sings.
fate lady sings,
At the end of the act.
Numbers are withering
And that is a fact.
Fractures are part
Of dramas onstage.
And then fails of age.
fate lady sings;
Immolation's the scene.
Unless heroes are keen
To tilt against dragons
Amid budgets' horns.
When heroes are lost,
The opera world mourns.
|The fate lady sings
For a million and more
Were lavished upon
One who would score
While others would not,
Backstage as in front,
But opera itself
Must bear the worst brunt.
|The fate lady sings
As time ticks away.
When talent's at play.
When top talent takes
The most, and then more,
Then everyone else
Can consider their score.
|The fate lady sings,
For that is her role.
As tragedies end,
They all take their toll.
A million seems lavish,
One thinks on the critics
And their uninformed slaps.
|The fate lady sings,
For that is her fate.
In this there is nothing
About her great weight.
Looming quite large
At the last of the show,
She sings of its end,
Of dead heroes and woe.
Addendum of a Final Curtain:
"On 12 March 2009, the 58-year-old opera company announced plans to
pursue Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, the result of the company
having filed a petition on 10 December 2008 under Chapter 11 of the
U.S. Bankruptcy Code with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
District of Maryland. Amongst the reasons cited were 'dwindling
ticket sales and contributions'." In "Baltimore Opera Company,"
Wikipedia article, n. d.
Addendum of Another Final Curtain:
"... the finger-pointing has begun, over the company's
recent decisions to go dark during the 2008-09 season, to hire
Belgian director Gerard Mortier, who backed out, and to leave
Lincoln Center in the first place. "City Opera's demise is the
fault of people with a lot of money but no common sense, from Susan
Baker's absurd flirtation with Gerard Mortier to (board chairman)
Charles Wall's foolish support of George Steel when the singers and
orchestra unanimously had no confidence in Steel's artistic vision,"
Alan Gordon, national executive director for the American Guild of
Musical Artists, told the Associated Press. The company has already
sold off most of its costumes and sets, its endowment has shrunk to
about $5 million in June 2012 from $48 million in 2008. So there
really are no more reserves to draw on. Sadly, City Opera appears to
have taken its final curtain call." In "Cash-Strapped New York City
Opera Is Closing After 70 Years," by Adam Martin, New York Magazine,
2 October 2013.
Addendum of Yet Another final curtain:
"Longtime board member Carol Lazier contributed $1
million to help save the moribund opera, the L.A. Times
reported. Lazier will present a reorganization plan, authored by
trade group Opera America, to the board Thursday. The company should
be able to function with some restructuring, because it still has
large assets, and no debt, said the Union-Tribune. Financial
troubles have exposed fractures within the company and its board.
General and artistic director Ian Campbell and his ex-wife Ann Spira
Campbell, the opera’s deputy general director, have been accused of
mismanagement, and some say the pair make too much money. Their
combined salaries were more than $1 million in 2010. They would also
see a windfall of cash if the company is liquidated. The
perception is that they did not fight hard enough to save the
company." In "San Diego Opera, waiting for a savior, may have had
its final curtain call," by Soraya Nadia McDonald, Washington Post,
14 April 2014.
[ 2 ]
Addendum of Even More final curtains:
"...the Catania Opera is not alone. Florence’s Teatro del Maggio
Musicale is seriously in the red, as are the opera houses in Rome,
Bologna, Genoa, Parma, and Cagliari. In fact, reports Enrico Votio
Del Refettiero, the influential writer who covers opera on the Luigi
Boschi blog, only three Italian opera houses are currently able to
pay their bills within two months: Milan’s La Scala in Milan,
Venice’s La Fenice, and Turin’s Teatro Regio. 'Our opera house
system is already shutting down,' he said. 'It’s gone,
finished'." There’s a simple reason behind the desperate
financial plight of Italy’s opera houses: Italy’s economic crisis
has forced the government to slash arts funding. It used to be said
that the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings." In "The End
of Italian Opera: Will They Wait for the Fat Lady to Sing?" by
Elisabeth Braw, Newsweek, 26 December 2013.
of Pulling the Plug: "The Fort Worth Opera has
pulled the plug on the sci-fi opera 'A Wrinkle in Time,' the
$1.2 million world premiere by American composer Libby Larsen that
was to have anchored the company's 2015 festival. General director
Darren K. Woods says the festival will shrink from four productions
to three next year because the company's fundraising has not kept
up with rising costs." In "Fort Worth Opera Shelves World
Premiere Of 'A Wrinkle In Time'," by Doualy Xaykaothao, KERA News,
16 February 2014.
Addendum of Crises: "Both
the European and US opera industries are in crisis, with house
directors frantically trying to plug funding holes ripped by the
recession. While Europeans reel from government funding cuts,
Americans struggle to cope with shrunken endowment funds,
disappearing donors and a drop in ticket sales. Nowhere has the
crash been more devastating than in the US. Reliant upon wealthy
private donors and endowments, which have slumped, opera houses
face the new decade with a serious lack of cash. Usually more
expensive than their state-subsidised European counterparts, their
high ticket prices have also thinned out the middle market, emptying
a worrying number of seats in the stalls. The Baltimore and
Connecticut opera companies have already lost the battle and been
forced to close, while almost all companies have seen cuts and
cancelled parts of their seasons. Major players such as the
Washington and Los Angeles operas – both have the star tenor Placido
Domingo as their general director – have junked productions and
trimmed staff, with Los Angeles soliciting a $14m state loan to tide
it over. The New York City Opera, meanwhile, saw its new director,
former Paris Opera head Gérard Mortier, leave before he had even
brought anything to the stage when he felt unable to accept its
recession budget of $34m – after requesting a still relatively low
$70m." In "End of the aria as opera falls on hard times," by
Feargus O’Sullivan, Financial Times, 25 March 2010.
Addendum Mentioning Rubbish:
"The difficult part of the arts subsidy argument is one of
quality control. One reason why the Arts Council has a dismal
reputation in some quarters is that it has often given money to
groups for what appear to be reasons of political or social
engineering rather than to encourage quality. Nor is this confined
to the Arts Council: the unlamented British Film Council had a hand
in The King’s Speech, but it also had a hand in a lot of
unutterable rubbish, some of which barely got distributed or
even made it to DVD. Much of what they produced was of the
Left-wing, self-hating variety, whose existence reminds us of one of
the reasons why the contemporary French cinema is so much better
than our own. Too many second-rate “artists” – be they
screenwriters, directors, choreographers, “installation artists” or
composers – were enabled to make a living purely because the state
chose to subsidise their profoundly second-rate outpourings." In
"The arts can survive, and thrive, without public money," by Simon
Heffer. Telegraph UK, 7 May 2011.
[ 3 ]
[ 1 ] "Stack stout
logs for me in piles there by the shore of the Rhine!
High and bright let a fire blaze which shall consume
the noble body of the mighty hero. Lead here his horse,
that with me it may follow the warrior; for my own body
longs to share the hero's holiest honor. Fulfill
The old joke about the "fat lady" is as a propos to
today as it was in earlier years. One reads an
interesting review of opera reviewers:
"Opera has had more than its share of spats over the
corpulence of the ladies singing, and even, sometimes,
the men. One soprano, Deborah Voigt, even had a gastric
bypass, basically to get into a little black dress. In
recent years, in line with the temper of the times,
opera has become more conscious of physicality in
casting, just as critics have become less likely to make
overt attacks on performers because of their looks. It's
quite possible that all of these men assumed, probably
subconsciously, that because Erraught was playing a man,
all bets were off, and they could, for a nice change,
relax and have a good go at a woman for failing to be
the physical embodiment of the culture's cliched
dreams." In "Old, male opera critics are not the
arbiters of all that is beautiful," by Deborah Orr,
Guardian UK, 24 May 2014.
One might also consider the current state of opera as
stage direction and design. See:
How to Opera Germanly
[ 2 ] "Also
circulating in the plaza were sign-toting subscribers
urging the ouster of Campbell and his ex-wife, Ann Spira
Campbell, the company’s deputy general director. Their
high salaries (which topped a combined $1 million in
2010) and the cash payouts they would receive upon
liquidation, have infuriated critics." In "San Diego
Opera: hoping for an encore," by Pam Kragen,
Union-Tribune San Diego, 13 April 2014.
More from southern California: "San Diego Opera
officials seeking millions in government grants painted
a picture of financial health over the past few years —
a time during which financial troubles were well known
inside the organization. In a 2012 application to
the city of San Diego the opera noted — as it did in
each year the company sought funding — that the
organization had a balanced budget for 25 years and that
the opera was in 'remarkably excellent fiscal health.'
Now preparing for shutdown with funds near complete
depletion, the group's leaders say they knew of
financial troubles internally for years." In "Opera
tapped public funds amid troubles," by Greg Moran,
Union Tribune, San Diego, 11 April 2014.
[ 3 ] Public funds
means public opinions and political stances. One reads
of one: "We should cut funding for opera
and give more money to brass bands, the former head of
the Arts Council said yesterday. Liz Forgan – who was in
charge of the Government’s arts spending until last year
– admitted organisations such as the Royal Opera
House should be forced to raise more private money
rather than rely on public funds. Perhaps
surprisingly for a woman who presided over the nation’s
cultural elite for four years, she even claimed to
prefer the brass bands of working-class northern towns
to the music of Verdi and Wagner." In "Give money to
brass bands, not opera, says ex-arts boss who wants
organisations to raise their own funds," by Alasdair
Glennie, Daily Mail UK, 26 March 2014.
Reinforcing such a political stance, one reads:
"There are other problems with government funding too —
political ones. The big grants are likely to go to
those with political connections or political savvy.
While the increased popularity of opera in the U.S. can
be attributed to a lot of factors, it is encouraging
that the growth seems to be mainly supported by private
means. That way individual taste helps shape what you’ll
see or hear — through buying tickets, subscribing, or
donating small or large sums. And it means that opera
companies, like other entities, have to prove themselves
in the market." In "Opera funding — public or
private?" by Fran Smith, Open Market, 31 July 2007.
As to proving "in the market, one reads of one trend
hope to hold fate away: "The number of opera
training programs and conservatories graduating voice
and opera students has increased since the 1990s,
outnumbering the jobs available for opera singers, he
says: “There are more aspiring artists than the
established infrastructure can support. With
entrepreneurial spirit, they’re creating opera ensembles
of their own.” Entrepreneurial desire to have an opera
company may not always reap financial and critical
success, note observers. “Quality is a tricky word,”
says Scorca. “If you define quality as about size, there
is nothing like San Francisco Opera. If you define
quality — and this is where the audience comes in — as
about really unexpected pieces, then for some people
West Edge or Opera Parallèle may provide surprise. For
others, it’s about youthfulness. It’s very subjective
and it’s up to the audience to decide what they want.”
In "Survival Economics: Small Opera Companies Drive
Change," by Molly Colin, San Francisco Classical
Voice, 21 May 2013.
Original material - Copyright ©
2014 Gary Bachlund